Pamela swung her gaze back to Cranton, her irritation growing. “He’s not my boyfriend, but he is going to explain this. Aren’t you, Cranton?” She stretched his name out over at least two extra syllables. “And I doubt it has anything to do with food deliveries or your mother’s gravy recipe.”
The corner of his mouth jerked. “Hardly.” He nodded at Johnny. “Although I don’t know what he has to do with it.”
A groan sounded from the man on the floor and they all looked down. Johnny bent and grabbed the guy’s arms, lifting him into a fireman’s carry. “I’ll make sure this guy is out of commission for awhile. You explain it to her.” He lugged the man into the bedroom, slamming the door with his foot.
Pamela stepped closer to Cranton. “Stop stalling.” Sweat glistened on his upper lip, and his scent, a cologne made deliciously musky by their action, was unexpectedly alluring. She swallowed, forcing herself calm. “Now. I was a Ranger. Stop holding back.”
After a moment, Cranton let out a great sigh. “TURKEY DROP was a failure. My failure.” He stepped back, running his hand through his hair.
“It’s why you were hiding out?”
“Yes. After my last tour in Iraq, I joined Sirocco Enterprises.”
“The private security company.”
“Right. Because of my work as a mediator, they brought me in to arrange a prisoner transfer. Some of their guys had captured a group of insurgents. They’d received word that the insurgents' cell group would be willing to trade them for a group of Americans being held. Neither side wanted the Army or NATO involved. The goal was to get the Americans home for Thanksgiving. Thus . . .”
“Thus TURKEY DROP.”
A few uncomfortably odd sounds from behind the bedroom door caught their attention, then Johnny emerged alone, wiping his hands on his thighs.
Pamela turned back to Cranton. “So how did it fail?”
He shook his head. “Too complicate to explain. It just did.”
“Spectacularly,” said Johnny. “A third party got involved. Now at least two separate groups want him”—he pointed his thumb at Cranton—“dead.”
“Thanks for the reminder.”
“What about our people? What happened to them?”
He shrugged. “Not sure.”
“They’re across the border.”
Cranton and Pamela stared at Johnny. Pamela found her voice first. “You mean Canada?”
“That’s why I’m here. Sirocco brought me on after your boyfriend’s fiasco to track the prisoners. He’s the talker; I’m a tracker. The insurgents wound up with no choice but to get them out of the Middle East. They smuggled the prisoners into Canada.” He glared hard at Cranton. “They’ll still make the trade, but they want you to do it. No authorities. No Sirocco. Just you.”
Pamela watched the color drain from Cranton’s face.
“I almost got them killed,” he whispered. “I can’t protect them.”
The enormity of what Cranton had tried to do, the way he’d tried to serve other Americans even after his time in the service, washed over Pamela. She felt a sudden surge of pride.
“Yes, you can.” She glanced once at the Glock, still clutched in her hand. “We can.”
“Now, wait a minute—” Johnny started.
Pamela shook her head, barely glancing at her brother. “No. We have to get them home to their families for Thanksgiving.” She focused on Cranton. “As I said, I was a Ranger. We can do this. You can do this.”